QB and Hawthorne Decisions Still Pending

Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges discusses his team's success against Washington State and looks ahead to Mississippi State.

Auburn, Ala.--As Auburn prepares for itsf irst road football game of the year at Mississippi State on Saturday, the third quarterback seat on the plane behind Brandon Cox and Blake Field is still open for the taking.

While true freshmen Neil Caudle and Steven Ensminger appeared to be the front-runners, Al Borges noted after Monday evening's practice his choice for number three may be none of the above.

"There is a possibility that we'll use Jonathan Vickers," Borges says. "We haven't finalized that. We'd like to redshirt both of those kids (Caudle and Ensminger) if we can. Jonathan knows our offense and he's played quarterback here for a couple of years. He's got a pretty good idea and he could put a fire out if he needed to."

Jonathan Vickers

Vickers is a redshirt sophomore who spent most of his time in August working at safety and special teams. He has good size at 6-2, 204 and is a good athlete with a strong arm.

After looking at the film Borges gave Cox a "steady" review for his play in Auburn's win over Washington State.

"A couple of third down passes were atypical of him," Borges notes. "He didn't get his hips set to the target and rushed the throw a little bit. He was off target on a couple of throws that he's usually not. For the most part his play was solid.

"He did a great job on the line of scrimmage. He's taken the next step. He made a couple of audibles and got us into some good plays. He used the clock well late in the game and his management skills were good."

In the first game the Auburn offense showed what might become a big part of its identity during the 2006 season. Two of the top offensive weapons, Kenny Irons and Brad Lester, accounted for 294 of the 484 offensive yards. Borges has shown in the past that he can find ways to get two tailbacks on the field and get the ball in their hands. Even though Lester is a second string player, he is still one of the top weapons and offers a different dimension to the offense.

"He's such a great change-up back," Borges says of Lester. "Kenny is such a downhill kind of guy. He hits them hard and fast and Brad does to a degree. What Brad does more than Kenny does is that he's got more stop-and-go sideways stuff.

"When you've been tackling Kenny Irons all night, or trying to tackle Kenny Irons all night, and Brad comes in there and he's a little bit smaller of a target but has a little different style of running, it really does a lot for us I believe.

"Plus Brad has some dimensions to him," he adds. "Brad can catch the ball in space and do something with it. One thing I've noticed about Brad Lester since I've been here is that he scores touchdowns. He tends to score touchdowns. There's a reason for that. You have to have a certain number of touchdown scorers, guys that score touchdowns. It seems like when he touches the ball he's got that ability whether it's catching it or running with it."

Lester scored on a 34-yard screen pass in the second quarter and again on a 12-yard run in the fourth.

Borges gave the receivers a good review as there wasn't a bad drop the entire game. One unanswered question at the position is the role of Tim Hawthorne. The true freshman did not play on opening night.

"I don't know if we're going to redshirt him or what we're going to do," Borges explains. "He's got a world of talent. We want to play him when he's ready to play and when he can success. When Tim gets rolling he's going to be a major factor. I believe that. At this point we don't want to throw him into the mix until he has a real good chance to succeed."

The offensive line was one of the bright points in the game as the Tigers rushed for 293 yards. Cox was sacked four times in the game, but the line got stronger and stronger as the game went on and was able to wear down the Cougars' front seven.

"I think we gave a little more energy as the game went on," Borges says. "And it was never terrible, but our surge in the second half was better than our surge in the first half. We were moving some people in the third and fourth quarter and it was the difference in between kicking field goals and scoring touchdowns."

The way the Auburn running game was able to grind out touchdowns down the stretch of the game was exactly what Borges and the entire coaching staff wanted to see. It was the biggest point of emphasis through spring training and August camp.

"We are trying to create a physical mentality here now," Borges says. "It started after the bowl game. We were not very happy. From spring football until our first game, we said we were going to go out, run the football and we're going to stop the run. That's what we're going to do.

"We're going to get on the line of scrimmage and try to knock people off the ball and pick our spots in the passing game," he adds. "We tried to carry that in the first game. We're not going to stop doing it either.

"We'll always believe in balance, but we are dead-set on being physical," he notes.

That mentality will certainly help this coming up Saturday in Starkville. The Bulldogs aren't very good offensively, but the defense may be tougher and better than any MSU team in recent years.

"They're very active and they run very well," Borges says. "They have good speed and they don't seem to give up many big plays. Watching them on tape it seemed like the only play they gave up was that trick play. South Carolina was not moving the ball on them very well. They had to resort to that to score. That scares you a little bit."

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